Interview

Living the F1 fairy tale - exclusive Valtteri Bottas Q&A

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Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes-Benz F1 W08 Hybrid arrives and celebrates in parc ferme at Formula

Seven races into his Mercedes F1 career Valtteri Bottas has already more than justified his place alongside his three-time world champion team mate. Not only has Bottas out-qualified Lewis Hamilton on more than one occasion, he has taken his maiden pole position and his first Grand Prix victory. So what now for F1 racing’s latest flying Finn - and what might this weekend’s Baku race hold?

Q: Valtteri, have you already digested the fact that you are now living in an F1 fairy-tale land?

Valtteri Bottas: Ha, yes, I have. It’s my fifth year in Formula 1 and it was about time that something dramatic happens. Believe me ‘fairy-tale land’ feels really good! It’s living a dream and every day I do acknowledge that I am a very lucky guy.

Q: It took you not more than four races with Mercedes to win your first Grand Prix – in your previous F1 life it may well have never happened. What were your own expectations as to when and where it would happen?

VB: I wanted to do it in Australia at the season opener. That would have been a statement. That was the target. But it is nice having done it in the first part of the season. I wanted to have it earlier rather than later. Now it is done and dusted: my first win, my first pole position – now it all is out of the way! (Laughs)

Q: Can you explain a bit the differences between your previous car and the Mercedes? What makes this car a winner?

VB: That is pretty difficult to say because of the massive rules changes this season. So my guess is that the new Williams feels completely different to the car I knew. Coming to my car now, it is very stable with a great grip level. How the 2017 Williams is I cannot say, as I have not driven it. All I can say right now is that the 2017 Mercedes is fantastic. That is the bottom line for me.

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 in the Press Conference at Formula One World Championship,

"Every day I do acknowledge that I am a very lucky guy" - Valtteri Bottas

Q: You are happy with Mercedes, the team is happy to have you – it looks like the beginning of a wonderful friendship. All indications point to you extending your one-year contract with Mercedes…

VB: …of course that is my aim! My goal is to have a long-term partnership with Mercedes – a long future together. But obviously I have to wait and see if this is possible. That is why I wake up every morning and work with the team and give one hundred percent every time I am in the car - to help this team win championships, because that is what I want as well.

Q: How far along are the negotiations?

VB: This is still something for the future. It’s still a bit too early in the season.

Q: Having Lewis Hamilton as team mate is probably a bit stressful. What most surprised you about the guy in the garage next door?

VB: To be honest, there was no real surprise. We’ve had good respect for each other from the very beginning. It is a good team atmosphere. I always knew that he is massively quick – so no, no real surprise!

Q: He is also massively visible. Does that give you the chance to have a more private life, give he’s the one in the spotlight?

VB: Probably yes. Occasionally. (Laughs)

Q: Lewis has pointed out more than once that life with you is so much easier than with his previous team mate. Do you buy that?

VB: I have no idea. I have no experience of how it was before for him. But it that is the case then that’s good. As I said, there is a good feeling in the team – not psychological games. We are all pushing for the same targets.

Q: So you are not treated like the junior partner?

VB: I don’t feel like the junior partner. That is important for me.

Race winner Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates with the team and Lewis Hamilton (GBR)

"There is a good feeling in the team - not psychological games... We are all pushing for the same targets" - Valtteri Bottas

Q: You were a race winner in all the lower categories you competed in – then came the drought of your early F1 years. Now that you are back in victory lane, do you realize how much you’ve been missing the champagne?

VB: Well, it took a bit of time to understand what had happened in Barcelona. It was always about winning for me and it was a long time without it – the last time was 2011 in GP3 – so I really, really felt good and it slowly dawned on me what I have been missing all those years in between. That there as a certain void that wanted to be filled. Now I diagnose a certain addiction for that special podium feeling again. I want more!

Q: Your first Baku outing last year was pretty solid, finishing sixth. Your plan on Sunday must be to do better than that. A Mercedes won here last year – will we see a repeat?

VB: From my very first outing on this track I felt good with it, pretty comfortable. I missed FP3 last year but still managed to have a good qualifying and was able to jump up positions in the results to P6. So yes, I do expect a lot from this weekend. I think I will be very competitive here – and as a team we should do really well – so I am aiming for the win!

Q: Are you allowed to win with a view to the championship?

VB: Yes, of course.

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